Caitlin Clark had 30 points, 17 assists and 10 rebounds in her 10th career triple-double for the Iowa Hawkeyes, who built a 37-point halftime lead and beat Ohio State 105-72 on Sunday to win the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight year.
“That’s joy,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “To be able to play like that is so much fun, and I admire her for that. She’s so competitive, but she loves the game so much.”
Monika Czinano scored 26 points on 11-for-12 shooting for the No. 7 Hawkeyes (26-6), who entered the chat about a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with this championship run.
Clark had 23 points in the first half, just one fewer than the Buckeyes (25-7). She stepped back for NBA-range 3-pointers from the wing, drove hard to the hoop to draw fouls and dished out a steady stream of laser-like passes that were as devastating to Ohio State’s defense as they were pretty for the Iowa-dominated crowd to watch.
“I don’t know if we’d do it without them,” Clark said. “It’s literally home-court advantage.”
The announced attendance of 9,505 set the Big Ten Tournament record for a single session to beat the 2004 championship game in Indianapolis between Purdue and Penn State (9,417).
Clark flashed a big smile when she grabbed her 10th rebound with 5:18 to go.
“One area where I think she’s really grown is she’s reading the floor at an extremely high level,” Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said.
The Big Ten Player of the Year’s final assist, one short of her career high, fed Gabbie Marshall for a 3-pointer with 4:43 left that gave the Hawkeyes their 100th point.
“Her passing skills are so phenomenal, especially coming into the post. She truly makes my life so easy,” Czinano said.
Sometimes all it takes is a glance.
“We’ve just got telepathy like that,” Clark said.
Just before she was subbed out for good, Clark cupped her hand to her ear to the rile up her fans once more.
Clark recorded the third triple-double in Big Ten Tournament history, joining Janel McCarville and Amanda Zahui B. of Minnesota.
Most of those passes were high-low feeds to Czinano, who muscled and maneuvered her way around Big Ten Freshman of the Year Cotie McMahon, who had a major hand in slowing Indiana star Mackenzie Holmes in the semifinal comeback from a 24-point deficit.
Taylor Mikesell had 24 points and McMahon added 23 points for the Buckeyes, who shot 4 for 18 in the first quarter and never recovered.
Without those shots falling, they simply weren’t able to set up the full-court press that fueled their rally past the Hoosiers the day before.
With Indiana and Maryland having turned in resumes worthy of No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament, Iowa took the court with an aim for the same — even if Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder avoided that topic in her weekend talks with the players so as not to distract from the mission of a repeat conference tournament title.
The Hawkeyes will surely be at least a No. 2 seed. The Buckeyes likely solidified themselves as at least a No. 3 seed by reaching the final.
Iowa beat Indiana in the championship game last season.
The Big Ten this year brought the tournament to Minneapolis for the first time, and Iowa will be happy to have it held there in 2024, too.
The Hawkeyes made Target Center their home away from home, with black and gold the dominant colors in the arena every day and Clark frequently seizing opportunities to further energize the crowd with a timely motion and yell.
The all-time leading scorer for the Hawkeyes men’s program, Luka Garza, even showed up in a courtside seat on Sunday.
He’s currently playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who just returned from a road trip.
Marshall made all three of her 3-pointers and went 13 for 21 over the three games in Minneapolis. The Hawkeyes finished 36 for 58 to set the Big Ten Tournament record for shooting percentage (64.3) after starting the game a staggering 17 for 21.
“One of the stories of this tournament, as good as Clark and Czinano were, were the other people who made shots,” McGuff said.
CELEBRATING WITH THE FANS
Ohio State: Awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding
Iowa: Awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding.